Rock Your Next Interview: Master These Questions
Posted by Becky Lake on April 17, 2012 at 8:52 PM
You know first impressions mean a lot, and making a good one during a job interview can very well snag you the job of your dreams. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially if it's for a job you really want. The only way to calm your nerves is to do a lot of prep beforehand so you'll be ready for your interview. Read on for 10 common interview questions.
“Tell Me About Yourself”
Talk about vague! Whenever I got this prompt, I always felt my mind go blank. But, yours doesn’t. This question should usually take about one to two minutes to answer and will be your “elevator pitch.” You want to give your interviewer a brief rundown of who you are as a person and show how you articulate you are. Don't start rambling on about your personal history. Talk about highlights from job positions or schooling and how you can contribute to the company with your background and experiences.
Know what the company is looking for. If it prizes technical skills, play those up. Showcase the qualities needed for the job you're interviewing for. Before the interview, write down two to three notable achievements, and be sure to bring them up during your elevator pitch.
“What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
Think about what others have said about you when you're trying to come up with a list of your strengths. Remember, have confidence and always back up your points with an example and pick strengths that align with the company's culture and goals. If you're applying to a scrappy start-up, highlight your ability to multitask and to take initiative.
The most important factor when choosing which strengths to highlight is to make sure they relate to the position your applying to. For example, if you're applying for a human resources position, talk about your interpersonal skills.
The weakness question is always the hardest to answer. Try your best to stick to the truth and make sure you mention the steps you take to counter the weakness. Don't disclose anything that will make you look like an incompetent employee, such as not meeting deadlines and getting into conflicts with co-workers. Put a positive spin on the weakness but make sure it doesn't sound too practiced. An example of a weakness can be impatience, which can mean that you want to get the job done. Another weakness can be time management, but make sure you name the steps you take to beat that problem. You will look like a problem solver when you show them what you did to fix a flaw.
“What Salary Are You Looking For?”
You don't have to answer this question at the interview, and you can try to deflect this question until you've received an offer. Tell the interviewers that you want to hold off on salary talk until the both of you know that you're right for the job. If they press, explain what you currently earn and say you’re looking for advancement.
“Why Do You Want to Work For Us?”
Read up everything you can about the company, including the website, news articles, profiles of employees, and any tidbits on LinkedIn. If you or your friends know employees at the company, ask if they can speak to you about what the company is like.
Try to get a sense of what the company culture is and what its goals are. Once you've done your homework, you need to figure out how the company ties into your own career path and future.
If you are really passionate about the company and the works it does, be genuine and lay it out there. They are looking for someone who is excited about the position and will be an engaged worker. Just be sure you don’t lay on the cheese too much – you never want to appear dishonest.
“Where Do You See Yourself in a Few Years?”
Think about how you can move forward from the position you're eyeing. Figure out the natural career track and tailor your answer to the company. Try to be honest, but not to the point where you make yourself look like an unattractive candidate, such as saying you want to work for their competitor or something too personal like becoming a mom. Stick to professional examples; they don't want to hear about your personal life plan.
“Are You Interviewing With Other Companies?”
Try not to spend too much time on this question and answer briefly. A simple yes and mentioning the fact that you're open to opportunities will do the trick. You can also say that this particular job is your first choice. Remember, honesty is always the best policy, and don't lie and say you're interviewing at certain companies when you're not.
“What Can You Do For This Company?”
There are several versions of this question, which also includes, "What will you do when you're at [job position x]?" When you're preparing for the interview, think about why you would do a good job at the position and what steps you would take to achieve that. Bring in new ideas and examples of what you have done in the past that has benefited your previous companies.
“Why Do You Want to Leave or Why Did You Leave Your Current Job?”
It's understandable if you were laid off given the rocky economy. You don't have to share the dirty details, but you should be truthful and mention that your company had to let go of X number of people or the department was being restructured.
If you are leaving because of a negative situation, be sure not to badmouth your old company or boss. It just reflects poorly on you if you do. You can focus on the fact that you're looking for growth and that you feel this company feels like the step in the right direction.
“Do You Have Any Questions For Me?”
Asking good questions can reveal a lot of your personality and can be the most important part of the interview. Take some time into crafting very personal, well thought-out questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
Don't ask questions that seem to be too assuming and that make you sound like you think you got the job. Don't try to focus on pay, benefits, and getting promoted. Focus more on what you can do for the company and not what the company can do for you.
Use your judgement during the interview on how many questions are appropriate.
“When Did You Have to Deal With Conflict in the Office, and How Did You Resolve It?”
Oh, how I hate this question. It feels like balancing on the edge of a sword. Be careful when you’re addressing this question and make sure that you're not bitter or negative in your answer. You should always be positive because this reflects the fact that you take conflict well. Talk about a problem you faced (preferably not something you created), and detail the steps you proactively took to resolve the problem. The best examples will come from your past experiences.
By preparing for these questions in advance, you will go into your interview with more confidence. Have your roommate or significant other help you prep even more by creating a mock interview. They can give you tips and feedback, or even help you come up with better examples and questions.
What are some interview questions you’ve faced? How did you respond?